Thursday, December 06, 2007

Quatchi, Miga, and Sumi

What do you think of the 2010 mascots? Compare them with some "winners" from past olympics.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

panic and mirth

So... our server crashed at school on Thursday and the staff and students went without internet, email, home folders, everything on the computers, in fact (couldn't even log in as this requires a server connection). Thus, midst the frustration and despair, there was lots of storytelling, chalk & talk, bookwork, conversation, and face-to-face interaction. Let's not have too much of that or the system will collapse!

An outcome... I've put a backup website on my home computer which will only work if the computer is on at home!

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Finn, our son,
born 4:55 am, Tuesday, April 17th

weighed 8 lbs 7 oz (3.83 kg)
length 20.7" (52.5 cm)
head circumference 13.8" (35 cm)

Of our daughter Luthien I said she came from one place of wonder to another, slowly, with great pain, and many scientific interventions. With Finn, the story is quicker and more connected with the elements. Following building contractions for days, Kate entered active labour at about 1:00 a.m. on the 17th. After a check-in at the hospital at 3:30 a.m., a rushed ride home brought Kate (with the midwife and the doula) in at 4:30 a.m. to make noise and bear down, waiting for the big black watering trough to fill. Someone cranked the heat and I dimmed the lights (pleasant to some, but I found it rather spectral). At about 4:50 Kate slid into the tub and pushed a few times as the baby and her body led themselves to "outness" and Finn came rushing out. The midwife Ruth (not my mom) caught him in the water and placed him on Kate's breast, where, after some gurgles and squawks, he fed and we all started to breathe deeper.

Finn's eyes dark blue-grey, some dark hair, red skin and white wrinkled hands and feet. Digits long and ears close to his round head. Cry is soft, but his neck is strong. He has slept well, some 4+ hour stretches, and is latching with relish. Peeling now less red, no white, skin and hair becoming fair.

The name Finn comes from Gaelic or Old German meaning fair. In Scandinavian languages, it would refer to Laplander. The story of Finn and Hengest (a version of which has been written by Tolkien) in Beowulf and the FIght at Finnsburg has Finn as a Frisian king. Now there is also Twain's Huck Finn and the Irish hero Finn and the giant Finn who built the cathedral in Lund.

Fin is also a root word in Tolkien's mythology meaning skill in Quenyan. It is found in Finwë, his sons Curufinwë, Fingolfin, and Finarfin, and many others. They were a powerful family of Noldorin elves, and none were more skilled and beautiful than Finwe's eldest son who was named Fëanor by his mother (Sindarin for spirit of fire). Fëanor wrote alphabets, crafted three powerful gems called Silmarils, led a rebellion against the gods, and was exiled with many of the Noldor to Middle Earth, thus setting up much of the history that Tolkien described in his books.

Some of these strands have resonated with us, and may make more sense as our children grow. Perhaps our Luthien has more of the charactersitcs of a Fëanor, and maybe Finn will have more of the grace and calm of a Luthien Tinuviel than his Noldor namesake. The name Finn appeals to us for many of the same reasons that Lu does, something easy shout as you watch your child run towards the edge of ravine or what not, but their longer names speak of our hopes for our children in some ways, which are probably our dreams for ourselves. Like many of Tolkien's characters, there is much grief to balance joy, but hope also comes from strange places. For our fiery and talkative daughter, we bless her with peace and patience, and for our (so far) gentle son, we bless him with bold words and deeds.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Help me pick our baby's name

MALE (pretty sure it's a boy): Alec, Aragorn, Avi, Bëor, Fëanor, Fin/Finn, Hemlock, Lewis, Lief/Liev, Mac, Max, Oromë, Ossë, Owen, Pierre, Rowan, Thor, Viggo

FEMALE (just in case): Arwen, Claire, Freya, Galadriel, Hilary, Lauren, Olivia, Rose, Yavanna, Zoë

be kind!

Friday, March 16, 2007

fun with photobooth

Monday, March 12, 2007

response to technology issue

A response to a developing technology issue in my district... the plan to make elementary schools go to a single platform ("minutes" related to this decision are in the previous post). I publish my thoughts here as a personal record and in case it serves to inform others.

Who am I and where am I coming from on this issue?

I’ve taught in SD57 for 11 years and have been an active user and teacher of technology and advocate for choice & experimentation. I have sat on and chaired school tech committees, acted as a teacher rep on the District Tech Team (DTT), served as a tech trainer for 4 years, serve as a Key Tech Contact (KTC) and hold the “POSR” position at my school (D.P. Todd) which provides technology leadership and facilitates school planning. The 40+ workshops I have conducted in the last 7 years on technology for transformative learning have included topics like blogs & podcasts, audio and video editing, web design, and the connection between student identity and the new digital world. This was also a key focus during my last university degree, and has guided the use of technology by students in my classes. My school (D.P. Todd) and district 57 (central administration and the DTT in particular) have been very supportive of my work, in terms of professional development, grant money, release time, hardware & software, and opportunities to lead, share, and learn.

I understand the rationale behind the funding and evergreening plans, but the single-platform issue warrants my feedback. It has already been the subject of 62 posts to the teacher’s union folder, and 22 posts to the district-wide Technology folder. Within the context of mass-delivered tech services, some decisions based on efficiency are necessary, but I believe the nature and costs of efficiency are often overlooked. I also understand that there must be a compromise between maximum efficiency and maximum choice; also a compromise between the ability of techies to administer a system and the ability of teachers to direct their own use of educational technology.

Nonetheless, I have concerns about the district’s past commitments and the current lack of inclusion on an educational decision.

A long-term commitment to being a dual-platform district was publicly made by senior admin this year and last at Key Technology Committee meetings and the previous year at an open Tech Conversation meeting. This commitment is also described in our published District Technology Standards and has been one of the diversity themes which has distinguished our district and helped make it a technology leader in the province. This commitment was also reiterated when the Debian server was introduced in the district. The DTT was told that the choice of servers was not a judgement on platforms and was specifically chosen for its purported ability to work with both macs and pcs.

The decision appears to have been imposed without adequate consultation or respect for existing processes and users; only an incomplete and group of elementary principals were involved to some (unknown) extent. The teachers on the DTT, the KTC, and the tech committees at elementary schools were avoided for decision and/or input. This issue of consultation without actively considering other frameworks (i.e. one represented by teacher/user-input) is problematic and does not lend itself to “buy-in.” Teachers, not tech support or principals, are the ones most closely tied to daily implementation of classroom curriculum and adaptation of technology.

It is not too late to consult on this issue, consider impacts, allow flexibility or room for variance. Perhaps some of this is already in the works, but just needs to be communicated to affected educators? In addition to the commitment and lack of consultation mentioned above there are other reasons why this decision warrants a second look.

Was efficiency the criteria for making the decision? It may be simpler for system technologists to conceive of a single-platform management environment, but this will not guarantee that tech problems will go away or that their jobs will be easier. The migration to a new platform and software set will require a vast amount of time and help, and will not shorten the workloads. Teachers have developed curriculum based on software which is platform-specific and is not available on pc without considerable expense or support which is not currently provided. Finding, installing, licensing, debugging, training, supporting replacements for mac's iLife suite alone would overwhelm our tech support, unless there are no plans to match level of "service" provided by existing computers. A plan to lower level of service will result in teacher frustration and cynicism as a trade off for efficiency and centrally administered delivery.

Was this decision made for financial reasons? When some of our techies studied costs this last year, they found (and published) that similarly stacked & equipped macs and pcs cost about the same; this initiative won’t save much money, but it will create work for those who are already well-served by their platforms; to start with it would fall on teachers to find replacements for software currently used and convert their files and projects. Many teachers have purchased their own computers and peripherals to match what they use at school with the belief that the district had a long-term commitment to supporting dual platforms.

One only has to see the teaching & learning projects resulting from the numerous TLITE (SFU’s tech ed diploma program) alumni in our district to see an explosion of innovative work in the last four years. A significant portion of this innovation relates to media-rich, platform-specific software beyond the cross-platform “Office”-type programs and internet browsers. What is said about this work when the tools are taken away? Teachers have been very busy spending school time and free time developing curriculum based on software which is not available on pc without considerable expense or support which is not currently provided. Finding, installing, licensing, debugging, training, and supporting replacements for mac's iLife suite alone would overwhelm our tech support. A recent case involved a teacher at Heather Park looking for a pc alternative to Mac’s iMovie which is commonly used by teachers and students for video editing. Tech Support here was limited to suggesting names of other software; the work of getting an alternative will fall on the teacher. How much extra work will teachers need to do to in order to archive and reformat years of teaching material? What will the district offer in the way of re-training, assistance with file-migration, and purchase of new software to allow new pcs to measure up to the educational uses provided by macs in the past? WIll they allow schools to purchase intel-based macs which can handle both platforms? Limiting the kinds of work teachers and students can do with technology is not a progressive move, even though I’m sure it will be marketed as “moving forward.”

Standardization and reducing the variety of configurations available to students might make tech planning easier and tech support conceptually simpler, but it does not necessarily help us teach and learn. In my school, we have a variety of tech needs: teachers with media-rich tech demands, teachers with basic computing needs, physically and mentally disabled students, film students with huge storage requirements, mini-labs with recycled computers and scaled-down configurations, "locked down" labs, wide-open workstations, office staff and admin with particular needs, and so on. Our “techie” works skilfully to accommodate these different platforms, software-sets, configurations, and generations of computers. He shares the vision of the transformative use of technology and knows how unwanted and unstudied standardization will kill programs and projects in our school.

from the District Technology Team Minutes 07.02.27

[Here lies an issue which deserves a response...]

"Funding for technology at the elementary level

Given the challenges elementary schools face from year to year, a system is required to provide predictable and increased funding for technology. There are 2 objectives:

-Redistribute the funding among large and small schools to support differences of scale that these different sites.
-Raise the overall funding level in all schools.

Elementary school principals were consulted regarding a plan to give them “targeted” funding on an annual basis to green technology over the course of five years.

Feedback from schools was positive for the plan, many of whom suggested that if funds were to be targeted, it would be easier to have it handled centrally.


If systems are going to be deployed centrally, principals suggested the efficiency of using a single operating system platform. With this feedback, Tony went to Senior Administration and has been given a mandate to begin to develop a process for moving the systems to centrally administered single platform system across the elementary schools.

This process will begin in 2007/08 and will employ a five year greening cycle for all elementary schools."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Frankenfoods... my kids will not be lab rats!

After watching "The Truth About Genetically Modified Food," I’m more convinced than ever that Canada needs mandatory labelling of GMOs. Here are some reasons why:

(Problems with GMOs)

-testing is limited, left to others, or done by gmo company funded reseach
-use of invasive bacterial/viral technlogy to mutate food
-concerns over toxiicity/ effect on immunity
-poses threat of new allergens and tampering with antibiotic
-cell-invasion process affects nutrition
-patenting of life and native plant species by gmo companies
-ecological/soil cutrient cycling impact of gmo plants
-use of gmo-associated pesticides and herbicides
-gene-patenting & threats to individual privacy and freedom
-malicious lawsuits by gmo ccompanies to protect patents
-conflict of interests - gmo execs become government officials (EPA/FDA)
-impact of monoculture on genetic/bio divesity
-lobbying/campaign contributions to ensure deregulation
-unfair/subsidized competition with traditional plant varieties
-demands for payment when gmo plants contaminate adjacent fields
-threat to food secuirty/genetic heritage through gmo hybridization
-consolidation of food supply/mulitnational character of gmo companies
-use of suicide genes to prevent re-use
-creation of green deserts of genetically locked species

Monday, January 08, 2007

Diamond's top 12

From "Collapse," here is Jared Diamond's most serious environmental problems facing past and present societies:
1. Destruction of natural habitats
2. Loss of wild food sources (especially fish)
3. Loss of wild species and biodiversity
4. Soil loss and damage
5. Reliance on non-renewable energy sources
6. Threats to freshwater
7. Abuse of the photosynthetic ceiling (reducing growing capacity)
8. Chemical pollution and toxic overload
9. Introduction of alien species
10. Greenhouse gas emissions (global warming) & ozone depletion
11. Unchecked population growth
12. Resource consumption & per-capita impact

What would you add to the list?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Christmas reading

I'm not sure why, but against the advice of almost everyone I respect, I never bothereed to pick up and read A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Well, I finally did, and I think it was worth the wait as the ecological wisdom might have been lost on me 16 years ago when my brother-in-law John first recommended it. John got me a book for Christmas (Dillard's For the Time Being)... hopefully this one will take me less time to read!